Gaming is an expensive habit, especially in Lebanon. It needs high powered PCs or expensive consoles. That’s not the only barrier to entry though. More and more of gaming is demanding high bandwidth connections. Games are starting to exceed 50 GB downloads for digital purchases, and physical copies are $30 or more.
I often find myself wondering, which would be cheaper, buying a physical copy or paying for the bandwidth? Of course there’s always the option of taking advantage of the “generous” offers ISPs give, providing unlimited traffic at nights, leading us to wake up at 6 a.m. to pause downloads, and having our speeds throttled after a few nights of intensive downloads. If you don’t have a phone line or can’t get one, you’re left paying more than $100 per month for wireless ISPs. There are also barriers that any amount of money won’t fix because our Internet isn’t fast enough.
Gaming is in the midst of a substantial rift, and the dividing element isn’t hardware, which is becoming cheaper every day, it’s bandwidth and Internet speeds. Many countries like Lebanon have monthly bandwidth caps at around 50 GB. As game sizes skyrocket with the introduction of virtual reality, and as consistent connections and fast Internet speeds become an ever present necessity to play big budget games, countries such as Lebanon will be left behind.
New streaming as a service business models presented by the likes of Playstation and Nvidia, which aim to act as a “Netflix for Gaming,” require intense Internet connections. They serve as an alternative for people with low powered machines where computing is done in the cloud and streamed to your device. The number of games that cannot be played without an Internet connection – such as "Destiny," "The Crew" and "The Division" – is increasing every year.
Soon, games that are so hardware intensive they promise to use cloud computing to process large physics-intensive effects, such as building destruction, are going to become a staple of yearly big budget releases. "Crackdown," a game due out on Xbox in late 2016, has already demoed that technology effectively. As modern consoles are relatively low powered, the reliance on a speedy Internet connection is high.
For most people, Netflix opening up its service to Lebanon is inconsequential, because we simply don’t have the bandwidth speeds. Many resort to piracy for the lack of a better realistic option. Over the last few years, digital services have incentivized gamers to buy their games rather than pirate them through after sales add-ons and patches, maintenance, and steep seasonal price cuts.
However, piracy, both physical and digital is rapidly regaining its appeal for a number of reasons. Online pirates create repacks of the games, making the downloads significantly smaller, and in many cases, making “online only” games playable offline. These repacks deal with the most immediate problem of being a modern gamer with a bad Internet connection. They are swinging the pendulum of piracy away from the publishers' favor.
If publishers want to gain and maintain developing markets and curb piracy there, then they must find favorable solutions to these problems. In the meantime, gamers in Lebanon and similar developing regions are left with a number of less than perfect choices as they continue to be left behind.